AV-4 Curtis / AV-7 Currituck
The Curtis purpose-built heavy seaplane tenders was the largest class of seaplane tenders. They had all the operational facilities found onboard all capital ships primarily designed for operating aircraft, such as: operations room, air plot, combat information centers, aerological lab, pilots ready room, and communications facilities. These ships played an important part in the war in the pacific. IN addition to being an operations control ship, they acted as a "mother ship" - tending to the repair and servicing of squadrons of long distance seaplanes. These ships functioned in the same manner as operations are carried on in the larger aircraft carriers, the only difference being that the seaplane tender used the surrounding water to launch and recover planes.
The original tenders were found to be lacking in certain design qualifications, a learning process by which the Curtis class profited. These ships featured larger storage space and living quarters below decks, by which they were better able to provide comfortable living quarters for more plane crews. The extra space on the aft-deck allowed the crew of the air maintenance division added working room in which they could operate without interference from the hanger area. Larger and more complete machines and vital shops were also added.
Four Currituck (AV-7) class seaplane tenders were built for the US Navy. These were a modified Curtiss class design, with the most visible change being one rather than two stacks, and related engine room modifications. A catapult was fitted aft so they could launch Marine Corps floatplane dive bombers in forward areas, but they did not operate in this role. The first was by the Philadelphia Navy Yard (1942-44) and commissioning in June 1944; the remainder commissioned in 1945 and were built privately (AV-11, 12, and 13).
Seaplane tenders continued to be used until after the end of the Second World War, although usually as support vessels which operated seaplanes from harbors rather than in a seaway. These aircraft were generally for long range reconnaissance patrols. The tenders allowed the aircraft to be rapidly deployed to new bases because their support facilities were mobile, in a similar way to depot ships for submarines or destroyers and runways did not have to be constructed. A few remained in service after the war but by the late-1950s most had been scrapped or converted to other uses such as helicopter repair ships.
Currituck (AV-7), Pine Island (AV-12), and Salisbury Sound (AV-13) decommissioned in 1967 and were scrapped in the early 1970s.
ARVH-1 Corpus Christi Bay
In 1965 the AV-5 Albemarle, a WWII seaplane tender, was taken out of the James River Fleet off of Fort Eustis and taken down to the Navy yard in Charleston, SC. She was converted and renamed ARVH-1 Corpus Christi Bay [ARVH = Aircraft Repair Ship, Helicopter]. She operated in Southeast Asian waters during the Vietnam War and was manned by Army personnel assigned to the 1st TC Battalion (Seaborn) and by some ARADMAC employees.
In April 1966, the Army deployed this Floating Aircraft Maintenance Facility [FAMF] to Vietnam. This floating depot for aircraft maintenance was designed for use in contingency operations, initially for backup direct support and general support and provided a limited depot capability for the repair of aircraft components. It was equipped to manufacture small machine parts and also to repair items requiring extensive test equipment operating in a sterile environment such as avionics, instruments, carburators, fuel controls, and hydraulic pumps. The mobility offered by the ship also contributed to the effectiveness of aircraft support since it could move from one deep water port to another as the density of aircraft units shifted with changing tactical situations.
The unserviceable components were removed from aircraft in the theater and selectively repaired by the general support units and by the floating aircraft maintenance facility right there in Vietnam. In this way, they could be quickly returned to the supply system instead of being shipped back to the contractor, manufacturer or a depot in CONUS. The amount of work that could be done to support that program was limited and, therefore, it was continually monitored and directed to repair those items that, at any given point in time, were critical assets for the theater. These items ranged from engines on down to small gearboxes and tail rotors, hubs, grips, those kinds of things.
Through the return of components to a serviceable condition, the issuance of parts from its shop stock in direct response to user requests, and the fabrication of hard-to-get repair parts, the Floating Aircraft Maintenance Facility was responsible for removing a substantial number of aircraft from a not operationally ready supply condition. By July production reached 34,000 man-hours per month of manufacturing, disassembling, repairing, and rebuilding operations. During fiscal year 1969, a total of 37,887 components valued at $51.9 million was processed. Ninety-one percent were returned to serviceable condition. The 34th General Support Group reports indicate that the floating aircraft maintenance facility alone was responsible for an additional 120 aircraft available daily in Vietnam.
No ammunition company that served in Vietnam received more recognition for its outstanding performance than the 148th Ordnance Company (Ammunition), stationed at Vung Tau and Dong Tam during the early years of the war. The town of Vung Tau is located on a narrow, hilly, 10-mile-long peninsula bounded on one side by the South China Sea and on the other by Vinh Ganh Bay. The U.S. logistics complex at Vung Tau began just outside of town, with the airfield occupying most of the usable land, and extended about 2 miles along the southeast side of Highway 15; the port was on the other side of the road. In addition to the airfield and the port, the complex included a hospital, an equipment maintenance facility, the only floating depot-level aircraft maintenance facility in the world (aboard the Corpus Christi Bay, anchored just off shore in 1967), a number of storage facilities for nonexplosive supplies, and, of course, the ammunition supply point (ASP).
ARVH-1 Corpus Christi Bay got in a storm that cracked her hull. When she came back from that deployment, it was decided that the amount of repair needed and the condition of the ship was such that it did not warrant repaire. So the ship was taken out of the fleet, deactivated in 1975, and subsequently scrapped.
AVM-1 Norton Sound
Norton Sound (AV-11) was laid down by the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., San Pedro, Calif. 7 September 1942; launched 28 November 1943; and commissioned 8 January 1945. Norton Sound was selected for conversion to a mobile missile launching platform. She entered Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in February 1948 for seven months, while special equipment was installed for handling, stowing, launching, and controlling guided missiles. Upon completion of her modifications in October 1948, Norton Sound steamed for her new homeport of Port Hueneme, Calif. Enroute she conducted tests with Skyhook balloons and off southern California she underwent a very intensive missile training program. Late that fall Norton Sound successfully launched a training missile, thus marking the beginning of the Navy's shipborne family of guided missiles.
In the late 1940s the Naval Research Laboratory developed the U.S. Viking rocket as a replacement for the then-dwindling supplies of German-built V-2s. The first successful launch of a Viking rocket took place at White Sands Proving Grounds in 1949. The next year, 1950, one of the Vikings was launched from the deck of the USS Norton Sound. It achieved what was at that time the record high altitude of 106 miles-almost high enough but not yet fast enough to put a payload into low earth orbit. The Viking rocket was used extensively during the International Geophysical Year, 1957-8. The Vanguard rocket which placed the first Navy satellite in space was a derivative of the Viking.
Norton Sound (AV-11) was converted into a guided missile test ship and recommissioned as AVM-1. In the fall of 1950 Norton Sound underwent a four month overhaul at San Francisco Naval Shipyard. New handling, launching, stowage, and guidance systems were installed for operations involving the Terrier missile. She was reclassified AVM-1 on 8 August 1951. This was the first of three extensive alterations accomplished through 1955. She would serve until decommissioned in 1986.
The U. S. Navy needed a dedicated ship to perform development testing for new Combat and Weapon Systems. Research, development, and evaluation launchings of Terrier and Tartar missiles continued from this period through 1958. In 1958 Norton Sound participated in project "Argus". From a position south of the Falkland Islands she launched three rockets which carried low-yield atomic warheads. The low-yield (1 to 2 kiloton) devices were lifted to about a 300-mile altitude by rockets fired from the ship.
In the 1960s-1970s, the USS NORTON SOUND (AVM 1) was utilized out of Port Hueneme, California for the development test of the Aegis Combat System and the associated MK 26 and MK 41 launchers. The Aegis system was designed as a total weapon system, from detection to kill. The heart of the system is an advanced, automatic detect and track, multi-function phased-array radar, the AN/SPY-1. This high powered (four megawatt) radar is able to perform search, track and missile guidance functions simultaneously with a track capacity of over 100 targets. The first Engineering Development Model (EDM-1) was installed in the test ship, USS Norton Sound (AVM 1) in 1973.
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